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House Fire Deaths Warn to Check Smoke Alarms

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House Fire Deaths Warn to Check Smoke Alarms

Since Christmas, there have been seven deaths in Melbourne due to house fires. With the beginning of the New Year, it is time to check smoke alarms, and change the batteries to warn occupants in the case of a house fire. The tragic news has prompted industry associations to urge Australians to install and check smoke alarms, as well as check deadlocks are not a death trap.

Smoke from a fire will not normally wake a person when asleep, which is why working smoke alarms are so important, according to the Building Commission. Commissioner Tony Arnel stressed the importance of not only having a smoke alarm, but also having one that worked.

“When smoke alarms are installed and working, the time to detect a fire allows home occupants more time to evacuate,” Mr Arnel said.

“All new homes and apartments are required to have hard-wired smoke alarms. Furthermore, Victoria introduced a legal requirement in 1997 that all existing homes and apartments must also have smoke alarms installed.

“Smoke alarms are compulsory and must be installed in all homes, units, flats and townhouses.

“It is the legal responsibility of homeowners and landlords to install operating smoke alarms. A homeowner can be fined by a local council for failing to have a smoke alarm installed. However, the repercussions of not having an operating smoke alarm can be far more severe,” he said.

The recent tragic events have prompted the highlighting of an Archicentre survey revealing one in 5 homes of elderly people had no operating smoke alarm.

“In a sample of 200 Victorian properties inspected by Archicentre for the Home Services Program, run by the Department of Human Services, 86 per cent had smoke alarms installed and 14 per cent didn't. Of the 86 per cent of smoke alarms installed 10 per cent were inactive due to batteries having been removed or not replaced,” said Robert Caulfield, Managing Director of Archicentre.

“Many of the smoke alarms were also in the wrong place to protect elderly residents in a fire situation.”

Mr Caulfield said that older people are most vulnerable in a fire situation. Therefore, through the Victorian Government’s Home Services Program older persons and the disabled can arrange for a free home safety inspection, which includes an assessment of smoke alarms.

Archicentre has also brought to attention security conscious home owners, who could unintentionally turn their homes into coffins with deadlocks on external doors without keys kept in the lock.

“It is common to have deadlocks on the front and back doors of homes and if locked with the key removed creates a highly dangerous situation for the occupants of the house,” Mr Caulfield said.

“The simple rule is deadlock your doors when you are not in the house but when at home just don't do it and place yourself and your family at risk.


“The security blanket people are looking for with deadlocks can turn into being a death sentence in an emergency,” he said.


To prepare your family in case of a fire, plan and practice a fire escape plan. Fires are commonly caused from within the home, for example from cooking, smoking, candles and electrical faults. Check your home for fire hazards. Ensure bedding, curtains, clothing and other flammable material is situated away from heaters and electrical goods. Check that electrical goods do not have frayed cords, and that power boards are not overloaded.

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